Sunday, September 25, 2011

Rickenbacker 4003 Bass Review

Buenos dias, amigos!

Today we are looking at my second Rickenbacker bass: a 4003 model. I did a write up of my old 4001 a few months back, so I thought it would be nice to provide my impressions of the this one too.

The 4003 model bass was introduced in 1981, with many of the same features of the 4001 as well as a few improvements, including:

A. An improved truss rod system. The 4003 still uses dual truss rods, but now has nuts at both ends of the neck.

B. The 4003 has no capacitor on the bridge pickup. This allows full tone from the bridge pickup which is rather tinny on 4001 bases.

Other these changes, the 4003 has all of the usual 4000-series bass features.

The 4003 has a bound neck-thru body, and a has a bound neck with the curlicue headstock tip. Other distinctive Rickenbacker features are the signature triangular fretboard inlays and wacky trussrod cover. They also have the dual trussrod system “for added strength and adjustability” and Schaller tuners. I am still not a fan of the thick clear finish that coats the fretboard on these.

The electronics need a little explaining. There are two pretty hot single coil pickups, a selector switch, two volume and two tone knobs. But, the way they are wired is kind of whacky. Rickenbacker installs a push/pull pot that routes the bridge pickup signal through a capacitor to suck out the bass tone, and I guess the idea of this is to make better use of the Rick-O-Sound feature.

Rick-O-Sound is a stereo output effect that allows the player to divide the pickup signals and send them two different amps. Ideally this would send the bridge signal to a guitar amp and the neck signal to a bass amp. The output jack plate on these basses has a jack for a stereo guitar cord (for "Rick-O-Sound"), and a jack for normal mono output. Meh.

This one is a 2010 model, finished in Midnight Blue. The photos do not do the color justice, as it has a gorgeous pearlescent sheen to it. I bought it new from Musician’s Friend when they had a clearance on them a few months ago.

It showed up with a surprisingly good set-up, and plays better than any Rickenbacker bass I have ever tried. The neck is dead straight with a low action and no lift to the bridge (yet). The pickups have even output, though the pickup cover is a bit of a hindrance to my playing style.

This 4003 is pretty light for a neck-through bass, coming in under 9 ¾ pounds.

There are no problems with this bass at all, which confirms that I am really not a Rickenbacker guy. The ergonomics are still awkward for me, but I am not surprised or disappointed, as I bought this bass with the sole intention of flipping it for profit.

As these basses have street price of $1949 when bought new from a dealer, the low Musician’s Friend closeout price (plus extra coupon discounts), meant that there was plenty of money to be made by re-selling these basses, especially to overseas buyers.

Anyway, if you decide you want a Rickenbacker bass, and if you are not be hung up on getting a vintage 4001, you should pick up a 4003 instead as it is a more versatile and better built instrument. But really, you should try one out before you buy as it may not be your cup of tea.


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